School choice lawsuit surge pushes possible high court fight

By: | January 19, 2021

Vermont is facing at least its second lawsuit in four months over a voucher program that allows students in communities that don’t have schools or are not part of supervisory unions to attend schools of their choice, including approved private institutions.

The Vermont system in which certain towns pay tuition for students to attend other schools is unconstitutional because it’s not available to all students in the state, according to the Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago-based national nonprofit law firm that fights for school choice. If the lawsuit succeeds, officials at the nonprofit say they will file legal challenges in other states with similar school choice programs. But critics say the lawsuit is a veiled attempt to get a case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where conservative judges hold six of nine seats, to get more public funding into private education, including religious schools.

The Vermont suit comes six months after a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Montana case that states can’t cut religious schools out of programs that send public money to private education. Following that decision, three Vermont families filed a lawsuit in September in federal court, saying that denying them the state tuition benefit to send their children to religious schools is unconstitutional.

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